Faculty of the Divisions of Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences

Chair: Robert H. Blackman

The Western Culture course is a three-semester sequence that introduces all Hampden-Sydney students to the history and cultural achievements of western civilization, from its roots in the early civilizations of the Middle East to the present day. The course is grounded in a consideration of both historical sequence and significant historical and cultural questions; it examines a variety of texts--literary, philosophic, theological, artistic--placed clearly in historical context. Ultimately, the course aims to explore "the way we live now" through a consideration of our cultural legacy.

BEGINNING TO 900 C.E. Common topics and events are civilization in the Fertile Crescent, the rise of Athens and democracy, the Roman Empire and its aftermath, Hebrew culture, and the rise of Christianity. Common texts are Homer, Iliad (selections); Sophocles, Oedipus Rex; Plato, Apology; Genesis (selections) and one gospel (selections); Augustine, Confessions (selections).

900-1800 C.E. Common topics and events are the Middle Ages, the rise of the nation-state, the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Common texts are Dante, Inferno (selections); Machiavelli, The Prince (selections); Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice; Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (selections); Madison, Federalist 10; The Declaration of Independence.

1800 C.E.-PRESENT. Common topics and events are Romanticism, the Industrial Revolution, the democratization of the world, modern science and technology, the world wars, and the modern world. Common texts are Darwin, The Origin of Species (selections) or a modern account of evolution; Marx, The Communist Manifesto; Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (selections); Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail; Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (selections).